Cherry Orchard Tease Hike

The Columbia Gorge is more diverse than some people realize. People who rarely stray from the Portland metro area are missing out on many worthy trips. The eastern end of the Gorge is drier, rockier, and more open, and trail signs there alert hikers about snakes, ticks, and poison oak.  Unlike trails near waterfall central, there is a viewpoint every other switchback on trails east of Hood River and Bingen. I was reminded of this after the wife and pup and I drove up to The Dalles following our adventures along the Deschutes River .

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While sitting at a park chomping on some unhealthy food (sorry, Ma), I looked across the mighty Columbia (rolling on, of course) and I saw a massive basalt escarpment I’d noticed before. I mistakenly thought this was the Coyote Wall I’d heard of as a hiking and biking destination.  It seemed a good spot for a hike, but we ended up somewhere else entirely.  Life is like that.

The Lyle Cherry Orchard trailhead is a broad pullout a mile or so east of Lyle, Washington.  The trail itself begins right beneath a rocky tower.  We knew we were in the right place because we saw dozens of cars.  As it turns out, there is a group called Friends of the Gorge and they organize group hikes.  We quickly met a couple dozen people descending the trail.  Everyone was smiling—a good sign.

We gained elevation rapidly, soon meeting the old roadbed of highway 8, a predecessor to the current highway.  At a flat spot, there was a signpost with waivers to fill out, as the trail goes through private land.  Fair enough. Above that, the trail switchbacks through scrub oaks and small crags, then comes out onto grassy benches rimmed with cliffs. There are stellar views of the gorge, both east and west.  Even with a few clouds in the sky, it was a sublime place to relax for a few minutes.

The trail shifts its approach, and beyond a stile, climbs steeply across an open slope.  A fall here would not be pretty, so we didn’t fall.  Coincidentally, I bumped into a man I knew from Portland.  It was no place to chat, so we moved on, climbing out of the steep stuff into an undulating oak forest.   No cherry trees yet.  Along the way, the trail passed two seasonal ponds, along with a skull and skeleton of a critter.  The last mile of the trail is rather humdrum in comparison to the first mile, but it’s still enjoyable.   After turning onto an old road, the trail opens up in the meadow of an old homestead site which offers a great picnic spot.  We found no cherry orchard, but there were more amazing views. Taking in the breeze, sun, and views was enough for us.

Jackie Chan met a few ticks on the descent, which I quickly dispatched with ninja swiftness.  Other than that, the hike was smooth,  and we were happy to get back to the car and think about cold beverages.  It was a very nice hike overall.  People with less time could stop at the upper grassy bench and be very satisfied.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on March 19, 2014, in Adventure, Flora and Fauna, General Hiking, Hiking with dogs, Mountains, Outdoors, Photography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I am going to check this out, very cool.

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